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Run benefit raises money for Special Olympics

Cary Ashby • Aug 14, 2018 at 2:00 AM

St. Paul High School cross-country assistant coach Robert Pabst always wanted to do something in memory of his younger sister.

“She was the first person I coached,” said the Wakeman man, who remembered Liz had a never-give-up attitude.

There was a time when Liz took 150 free-throw attempts before she made a shot. The basketball rim was on the side of her parents’ barn.

“She had Down syndrome. She was at Christie Lane for many years,” her brother said. “My mom and dad adopted her when I was 3.”

In May 2015, Liz Pabst died at age 44. 

Remembering his sister as dedicated and stubborn, Robert Pabst said he believes his time with her gave him the same qualities he has as a coach — being encouraging, upbeat and positive. He noted that the head cross-country coach, Tim Fitzgerald, has the same philosophy.

With Aug. 5 being Pabst’s 50th birthday and his desire to do an event in his sister’s memory, the 50 for 50 for Liz fundraiser was born. Since 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, it was the perfect time for Pabst to run 50 miles on his 50th birthday at Veterans Memorial Lake Park.

“I like the symbolism of 50 miles on my 50th,” Pabst said.

The event also was an “opportunity to raise money for the Special Olympics, an organization that Liz participated in and that members of my family still participate in today,” said Pabst’s daughter, Lauren. So far, the community has raised nearly $6,700.

“Our goal was $5,000,” Robert Pabst said.

Beyond the symbolism of the number 50 in the event, Pabst and other runners wore green “50 for 50 for Liz” T-shirts with red graphics. Those are the same colors of the logo of her favorite soft drink, Mountain Dew. Pabst changed into a Mountain Dew shirt during one stretch of the run.

Until the end of August, 50 for 50 for Liz is accepting donations. For more information, go to the GoFundMe page, https://www.gofundme.com/50-for-50-for-liz, or find “50 for 50 for Liz” on Facebook.

In fact, 50 for 50 for Liz was a St. Paul senior project for Lauren Pabst, McKenna Foster and Catherine Massie.

“A lot of this was his (my dad’s) idea, actually. It was something he always wanted for Liz. It just worked out perfectly,” Lauren Pabst said.

Members of the cross-country team and community members joined Robert Pabst on the 50-mile trek. Of the nearly 75 people who ran with him, coincidentally nearly 50 St. Paul students participated.

“I had a couple friends from high school who came and ran with (us),” Pabst said. “I was flabbergasted.”

His daughter, who has been running cross country since seventh grade, said her father was never running with anything less than five people. Sam Sigsworth, a 2018 graduate, ran 30 miles with Pabst.

“My favorite part is the people here,” Lauren said about her cross-country experience. “We have a very positive attitude on the cross-country team. I love the atmosphere. Everybody is encouraging each other.”

Her father said that sense of support is common in the running community. Even when St. Paul races against its biggest rival, New London, all the runners are encouraging, “even amongst other teams,” Pabst added.

“The last guy gets the biggest applause,” he said.

As Pabst wrapped up the nearly 14-hour, 28-minute event, a large group of St. Paul students joined him.

“I wouldn’t have been able to make the last five mies if I didn’t have people with me,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words what it means to me that they showed up.”

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